Monumental indifference

The other day, I observed the 15th anniversary of my last visit to Chandigarh’s Rock Garden. It was a private affair, the media wasn’t invited, and I resisted the temptation of posting the proceedings on Facebook. No, I’m not a nostalgic NRI pining for his homeland. Nor am I a foreign tourist who once visited Le Corbusier’s dreamscape. Vikramdeep Johal writes.

punjab Updated: Dec 01, 2013 10:11 IST
Vikramdeep Johal
Vikramdeep Johal
Hindustan Times

The other day, I observed the 15th anniversary of my last visit to Chandigarh’s Rock Garden. It was a private affair, the media wasn’t invited, and I resisted the temptation of posting the proceedings on Facebook. No, I’m not a nostalgic NRI pining for his homeland. Nor am I a foreign tourist who once visited Le Corbusier’s dreamscape. I have been living very much in the City Beautiful all these years. However, like many other we-take-it-all-for-granted citizens, I haven’t bothered to travel a few kilometres to take another look at Nek Chand’s masterpiece. A clear-cut case of “ghar ki murgi daal barabar.”

This indifference is in stark contrast to what we do when we visit other cities as tourists fleeing the daily drudgery. There’s hardly a garden, lake, waterfall or mountain that we don’t tick off on the must-see list. Every Suicide Point and Scandal Point are covered, even if they are all virtually the same at various hill stations. We don’t even mind looking through a third-rate telescope at a fuzzy peak which, with much help from our guide as well as our imagination, looks a bit like a camel’s back or an elephant’s trunk.

With great expectations comes great disappointment. On a trip to Paris a few years ago, there were two world-famous things I wanted to see: the Eiffel Tower and Mona Lisa. Sadly, the Tower turned out to be a metallic monstrosity having neither the beauty nor the grandeur of the Taj Mahal or the Qutab Minar. I found it best suited for a bird’s eye view of the City of Lights, a view which mercifully didn’t include the Tower itself! What’s worse, it came across as a huge distraction in a city which has many attractions to offer. Had it not been for all those illegal-immigrant Punjabis who were hard-selling souvenirs at the spot, I would have forgotten my Eiffel tour in a hurry. My advice to those who want to see the Tower: Don’t go all the way to France. There’s a replica installed in Chandigarh’s Leisure Valley, good enough to give you a feel of the real thing and get you a bunch of Likes on FB.

One look at Da Vinci’s ‘30 inch x 21 inch’ Mona made me wonder what the whole fuss was all about. If this was the “the best known, most visited, most written about, most sung about and most parodied work of art on earth,” then I was surely better off admiring art on another planet. True, the Great Wall of Chinese tourists didn’t let me look at the small portrait for long, but whatever I saw was enough to turn me off.

Coming back to Rock Garden, I’m really keen to go there soon, with my four-year-old daughter. She’s a budding junk collector who enjoys filling our house with all kinds of bits and pieces. I’m going to tell her that if she wants to pursue this offbeat career, she should try to create eye-catching art out of all the scrap, a la Nek Chand. And there’s also a 21st-century monument on my hit list: the 100-metre-high Fateh Burj, said to be India’s tallest victory tower. Inaugurated exactly two years ago by the Badals with an eye on the assembly polls, it’s also the spot where the Punjab government was sworn in with much fanfare last year. The imposing structure is clearly visible from my office in Mohali, but I’m yet to bridge the 1-km gap to see it from close quarters. Thanks equally to my laziness and my aversion to politics, it’s a classic example of so-near-yet-so-far.

First Published: Dec 01, 2013 09:29 IST